Vancouver’s Olympic Transit Demonstration

The Vancouver Olympics may be over, but Jarrett Walker at Human Transit writes that the legacy for public transportation in that city could be a lasting one. During the games, the city moved nearly 1.7 million people per day on its transit system. Walker sees it as a sort of Olympic exhibition of what the future could hold:

4243413755_68203df7a2.jpgThe skyline of Vancouver. (Photo: janusz l via Flickr)

Why should a growing city with high ambitions for sustainability
host a big blockbuster like the Olympics, with all the risk and
nuisance that it entails? 

So that everyone can see exceptional
transit ridership, and exceptional volumes of pedestrians, and exceptional limitations on private car traffic, and can ask:
"What if that were normal?"  Here’s how Gordon Price put it yesterday:

now have a public that sees the possibility," said (SFU City Program
director Gordon Price). "We just conducted the greatest controlled
traffic experiment in North America."

In a growing city, a big event like the
Olympics is an imperfect but vivid glimpse of what "normal" might
be like 10, 20, 30 years in the future, when there will be that many
people moving every day. 

Walker points out, this kind of real-world demonstration is worth a
thousand policy statements or pronouncements from politicians. 

More from around the network: Car Free With Kids has some useful tips on how to raise a kid who likes to walk. The Bus Bench
writes about the United States’ gender divide in cycling and transit —
and why there’s a link to our nation’s lack of affordable child care.
And we’re now following Ditching the Car for Forty Days, the blog of a guy who has chosen to give up his car commute for Lent.

  • I spent six days in Vancouver during the Olympics, and man was I impressed with their public transit. Even more impressive, I didn’t take a ton of infrastructure. Vancouver doesn’t have much of a subway or tram system. They have a SkyTrain, but that mostly gets people into Vancouver from the surrounding area, it’s not great as getting people around town.


    – Ran a ton of buses, everywhere, all day and night.
    – Were super, super prepared. After hockey games, they would have dozens of buses lined up ready to get people moving out of the area
    – They placed a priority on getting people to/from events on public transit. Every time I headed to/from a game with an Olympic ticket, I didn’t even have to pay a fare. Morever, you couldn’t get to Whistler unless you took a bus, which made it possible to move many more people without the worry of tons of cars, and parking those cars
    – They were accommodating of mistakes. The first time I boarded a bus, I didn’t realize I had to have change to pay the fare. The bus driver told me to just make sure I had it next time, and let me ride.

    All in all, I was impressed that a city with so little transit infrastructure could do so much.



Jarrett Walker: Empty Buses Serve a Purpose

Most transit agencies have been through some version of this scenario: In one part of the city, buses drive around stuffed like sardine tins, while elsewhere they can be all but empty. Car drivers mock the empty buses in low-density parts of the city. Some elected official picks up the banner, demanding that the transit […]